Creative director, author and editorial design fanatic, Jeremy Leslie has garnered 25 years experience in the magazine design industry with a portfolio of work in the art direction of weeklies and monthlies for the newsstand. The London born creative has also written two books on the subject of magazine design, ‘Issues’ and ‘magCulture’. His work as the creative director of magCulture, along with his endless list of references in creative direction, editorial design and consultancy combined with his conference appearances, has forced the magazine world to stand up and take notice. In reaction to that, we caught up with Jeremy to learn more about his experience in the magazine worlds in’s and out’s.
You’ve been working in magazine design for 25 years, where did you start out? When did you realise this was going to become your career?
I started out studying graphic design, back in school I had a great teacher who grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and pointed me towards art. It was the content that drew me into magazines, the music, the fashion. Growing up in London music has always been a passion, back then we made our own music fanzine, which showed me design was a really important side of magazines.
What was the first magazine you ever read?, or rather the first magazine you fell in love with?
The first I can remember was children’s TV magazine Look In, but the ones I fell in love with had to be NME and Nick Logan’s The Face. They were connecting and sharing music and culture way before the internet!
Digital media and the internet has changed the playing field for magazine design and distribution, but there’s something about being able to hold and flick through the pages of a print magazine. At the same time a lot of magazines that produced in print are now online only, like Amelia’s Magazine. How do you see digital and print media sitting together and where do you see magazine design and distribution heading in the future?
This relationship is the most defining thing happening right now. Print isn’t going to wipe out; print and digital can work together and rely on each other. Digital media and blog culture provides the ability for people to find their own editorial voice online, and then take this into print. You can create an online presence and promote print. Before the internet we would take copies of magazines to buy and sell at gigs, now it’s worldwide and word travels fast.
You’ve coined the phrase ‘endurance publishing’ – producing a magazine or publication in a limited 24-48 hours and in 2011 you had a go yourself with MakeShift, commissioned by the Royal Festival Hall. Can you tell us about this fast-paced collabrative experience? Will there be another 48 hour magazine?
My friend and colleague Andrew Losowsky created this term, endurance publishing happened because technology made it possible. At the 2009 Colophon, a 3 day event of international independent magazine gatherings we had an idea and had a go at making it work; to make a magazine at the event, about the event, resulting in 108-page publication that brought all these people together, editors, designers, writers on a 48 hour magazine about magazines. It’s a particular discipline, newspapers are doing it all the time but with huge teams; the night Steve Jobs passed Bloomberg Businessweek were ready to go to press; they scrapped it and overnight created a dedicated issue.
Digital distribution and social networking has helped to create a much wider platform for up and coming and independent magazines. What are the magazines inspiring you right now?
There are a really large body of good independents right now, Fantastic Man and Little White Lies to name a few, they love what they do, I’ve also recently discovered Wild Quarterly from America, an outdoors magazine which is really well put together and executed.
What do you look for in a magazine’s design and aesthetic for it to capture your imagination?
Making a magazine is like a musician making an album, it takes real passion and hard work, you put your whole life into it and then you have to do it all again…it has to line up right. For it to work the people involved need to be passionate about the content they are covering, it can be hard to make any money and even the successful small magazines struggle to cover costs, but the best ones feed off each other.
Can you tell us more about the bimonthly Printout! nights with Steve Watson from Stack!, bringing together industry professionals and magazine lovers in a celebration and live forum of independent print magazines?
In a basement in Shoreditch it’s an excuse for magazine fans and creators to get together. When we started there wasn’t anything specifically for independent publishing and we wanted to see if it could work.
It’s been a huge success! And Printout! just held its first ever Audience Awards, tell us more, will this become an annual event? and what has been your best independent magazine of the year?!
We wanted to keep the awards informal and fun; MagCulture is about exploring the positive and good in the industry; we are in the business of celebrating magazines and the awards are an excuse for people to discuss what we all love and vote a champion, but also to just talk about our favourites. The next Printout! night will be held in January 2013.
At Sketchbook we are as excited about the process as we are about the end result. What fuels your creative process?
My most important thing is not to stay stuck at the computer; I am a great believer in the most important thinking happening when you are out in the world; get out, look around, talk, discuss.
MagCulture is involved in and supports events all over the world, but London is home, what are some of your favourite London spots? Where do you find inspiration in the city?
I love London. There are always new places to discover, people always talk about Central Park in New York but we have Hyde Park; when working at Time Out Magazine we did a project shooting in Hyde Park amongst all this wild long grass, it was like being in the countryside, we are lucky to have green spaces in the city. And walking over Waterloo Bridge you can see all the landmarks, the curves of the river; it is always open and uplifting, my favourite view by far.
Lastly, you are looking at so many different magazines. What are your thoughts on our work here at Sketchbook?
I’m intrigued; it’s hard to build a strong back catalogue of work, it’s interesting to see here.
Click here to visit the magCulture blog or follow @magculture .
WORDS: MARISSA BAXTER
IMAGES: REEM AL HAJRI